What is the difference between a refrigerator and a freezer? Let’s look at some of the biggest differences, whether you’re shopping for a refrigerator for your kitchen or a cooler for the back garage for storing extra food.
Fridge vs Refrigerator: Differences and Similarities
Your refrigerator should be at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit or 4 degrees Celsius. This is cold enough to slow the degradation of food without freezing it.
A refrigerator shouldn’t freeze food, because the formation of ice crystals changes the consistency of the food. For example, refrigerated tomatoes remain solid and can be used in salads.
Freeze them, and all you can do with them is make a sauce. Note that freezer burn doesn’t render the food unsafe to eat. It only makes the food less palatable.
A freezer by definition freezes food. The average freezer has a temperature of zero degrees Fahrenheit. This is well below the freezing point of water. However, a temperature that low ensures that the food stays frozen even if you’re opening the door fairly frequently or there is a minor air leak.
One difference between refrigerator and freezer designs is that a refrigerator can have a freezer section, but no one calls a freezer a freezer if there is a refrigerator attached.
The typical kitchen refrigerator has a freezer built-into it. The freezer on top model is common, but side-by-side refrigerator/freezers are popular.
You can even find refrigerators with a freezer drawer on the bottom. Stand-alone freezers are available. These may be upright freezers that resemble refrigerators, except they run much colder than a fridge.
Chest freezers are also available. It is almost impossible to find a chest-style refrigerator. Small refrigerators without a freezer section exist. These are generally used in apartments and dorm rooms to preserve ready-to-eat foods and foods that need to be kept cold like lunch meat and milk.
Refrigerators are designed for accessibility. This is in part because the food in the fridge will often go bad in a matter of days. You need to use the vegetables in the crisper and the milk on the back shelf before it spoils.
This is why freezers may have shelves, but they rarely have slide-out shelves. You won’t find a freezer with niches to hold eggs, 2-liter bottles or butter, since there is no point. Freezers could be as simple as an insulated box meant to be kept cold. Shelves and other features are additions.
Freezers are designed to keep food very cold. This allows the food to be preserved for a long time, though how long it can remain frozen depends on the type of food.
However, you can freeze many fruits, vegetables, and meats for months. This is why freezers are often used to hold extra food purchased on sale or seasonal produce frozen for long-term use.
This application also explains why so many freezers are as large if not larger than a refrigerator. They exist to hold the frozen food you’ll move into the refrigerator’s freezer section when you’re a few days away from using it. Or you’ll move the food from the garage freezer to the fridge in order to thaw it prior to use
The average refrigerator is one of the main focal points of the kitchen along with the sink and stove. The average refrigerator is opened multiple times a day.
This is why refrigerators often have built-in picture frames, display your children’s artwork or hold the day’s to-do list and a grocery list. Because it is one of the most commonly used appliances in the home, you can find many refrigerators with air filters, built-in water dispensers as well as ice makers.
You won’t find a stand-alone freezer that dispenses ice for you. Refrigerators are much more likely to have humidity controls than freezers. Freezers are more likely to have deicing coils.
However, it is the freezer on top of the fridge that is most likely to have a defrost cycle than the standard stand-alone freezer.
More advanced refrigerators may have separate temperature and humidity zones. This could take the form of a defrosting drawer or a salad crisper that maintains a higher humidity level than the rest of the refrigerator.
You may be able to set the temperature as higher than the recommended level or set it just above the freezing point of water.
In contrast, the average freezer may not have any adjustable controls beyond a temperature setting and, possibly, a thermostat. However, some freezers may not let you set a temperature at all, but you certainly won’t be allowed to turn up the thermostat and use the freezer as a fridge.